A System For “Shrinking” Objects Was Developed By MIT

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The MIT researchers came up with an incredible invention. They developed a system for “shrinking” objects down to a nanoscale level, but it’s nothing like what we’ve seen in movies like “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” or others. In reality, it’s all about a 3-D printing technique which might be handy in various sectors of activity, including robotics, medicine, or optics.

“It’s a way of putting nearly any kind of material into a 3-D pattern with nanoscale precision,” explained Edward Boyden from the MIT.

The 3-D printing technique that the researchers used is the so-called “implosion fabrication.” With it, the researcher could print objects in 3D, at a nanoscale level. However, in its essence, the invention relied on the technique employed for high-resolution imaging of brain tissue, developed by Edward Boyden in previous experiments.

“This technique, known as expansion microscopy, involves embedding tissue into a hydrogel and then expanding it, allowing for high-resolution imaging with a regular microscope. By reversing this process, the researchers found that they could create large-scale objects embedded in expanded hydrogels and then shrink them to the nanoscale,” an MIT statement reads.

MIT Developed A System For “Shrinking” Objects To A Nanoscale Level

The scientists used a highly absorbent material as the fundamental element of the nanofabrication process, which was then bathed in fluorescein molecules which, once activated by a laser beam, attached to the so-called scaffold. By employing two-photon-microscopy, the MIT researchers managed to bind the particles to specific places within the gel.

“You attach the anchors where you want with light, and later you can attach whatever you want to the anchors. It could be a quantum dot, it could be a piece of DNA, it could be a gold nanoparticle,” said Boyden.

“It’s a bit like film photography – a latent image is formed by exposing a sensitive material in a gel to light. Then, you can develop that latent image into a real image by attaching another material, silver, afterward. In this way, implosion fabrication can create all sorts of structures, including gradients, unconnected structures, and multi-material patterns,” said Daniel Oran, an MIT graduate student.

“Once the desired molecules are attached in the right locations, the researchers shrink the entire structure by adding an acid,” the MIT statement reads.